Chanukah: Purifying the Oil III
“Your oils have a goodly fragrance; your name is as oil poured forth; therefore do the maidens love you.” (Song of Songs 1:3) R. Nachman the son of R. Hisda gave the following exposition:8 What is the meaning of the verse, “Your oils have a goodly fragrance; your name is as oil poured forth?” To what may a scholar be compared? To a flask of oil; When opened, its fragrance is diffused, but if covered up its odor does not diffuse; moreover things that are hidden become revealed to him (the scholar), as it is said, “Therefore do the maidens love you,”: which may be read to mean ‘the hidden [love you].’ What is more, even the Angel of Death loves him. for the words may be read to mean, ‘The one [appointed] over Death [loves you];’ still more, he inherits both worlds — this world and the world to come — for the words may be read to mean, worlds [love you].’ (Avodah Zarah 35b)
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 39:2) applies the verse to Abraham in a similar vein: Abraham was like a covered jar of oil before God instructed him to leave. He did not share his fragrance. Once he began his journey, his fragrance of wisdom and good deeds began to fill the world.
One of the major themes of Chanukah is “Pirsumei Nissa,” publicizing the miracle, or, sharing the fragrance of the miraculous oil with the world. We want all to see how God responds in the most miraculous ways to our efforts to reach beyond our limitations.
We can begin spreading the fragrant oil in this time before Chanukah by sharing our experiences of God allowing us to find exactly what we need to step forward and grow. The Talmud teaches us that when we begin to spread the oil’s fragrance we can perceive hidden things, win the love of even the Angel of Death, and can inherit both this world, and the World to Come.